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Overcoming Economic, Social, and Physical Barriers to Increase Game Accessibility

Historically, gaming has been most accessible to a narrow demographic. Due to the high cost of gaming consoles and equipment, gamers tended to be from a higher economic background – and since many of the early popular games were designed and marketed to young men, individuals of other ages and genders were underrepresented in gaming. Furthermore, gaming devices were designed without taking into account individuals with physical limitations.

In today’s progressive and technologically advanced society, there is a much larger focus on inclusivity and accessibility in the gaming industry. The rise of the mobile phone allows for games to be played by the 2.7 billion people who own a smartphone. The introduction of a more accessible device also led to the massive market growth of casual and hypercasual games, which is currently growing at a faster rate than any other gaming sector. Additionally, the presence of women in gaming has accelerated and an upward trajectory is predicted over the next few years. The global gaming world is definitely making strides in the right direction, but barriers to accessibility still exist. In this post, we’ll discuss the economic, physical, and social barriers in gaming and how to overcome them to increase your game’s accessibility.

Economic Barriers

Today, the price for PC and console gaming equipment remains high. A gaming laptop can cost anywhere from $700 to $2,000, and a console typically runs about $500 (and this is not even taking into account the added expense for headphone, keyboards, and games). Additionally, for those with busy schedules, the lack of portability with these gaming devices make it difficult to set aside time for actual gameplay.  

To make your games more accessible to people of all economic backgrounds, create a mobile version of one or more of your titles. The total addressable market for mobile is huge and appeals to a much larger demographic than PC or console. Plus, not only do mobile gamers have the luxury of playing on-the-go, but mobile games can be downloaded within minutes at a significantly lower cost than alternative platforms. Take a look at the projected growth for mobile gaming in the context of the global games industry:

Through mobile, players from many economic backgrounds have easier access to games. With in-game social features constantly improving, gamers can also connect with each other and cultivate inclusive communities. If you’re looking to make a new mobile game or a mobile version of your existing game, check out our blog Top Tips for Successful Mobile Game Development.

Social Barriers

Women now make up almost one-third of the eSports audience and about 45% of all gamers. Despite the fact that nearly half of all gamers are women, they are underrepresented in video game competition, content, and development. Gaming culture is still largely dominated by young, caucasian men. So how can the industry continue working toward inclusivity?

As previously discussed, mobile gaming provides a huge opportunity for attracting individuals of all demographics. Newzoo reported in 2017 that over 60% of women play mobile games daily. As there are countless games to choose from on mobile app stores, players can find what satisfies their unique preferences and core motivations.

To expand your audience appeal, make sure the characters and storylines you create are inclusive. Include individuals of different genders, ethnicities, and ages. Ensure that your marketing targets multiple audiences or gamer communities. Remember that making your game more accessible doesn’t mean sacrificing your vision of the game; it means making the experience as engaging and enjoyable as possible for players of all backgrounds.

Physical Barriers

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly one in five people in the United States has a disability. Historically, game design lacked the technology to provide accessible devices for the physically impaired. Recently, more serious efforts by game publishers are breaking down physical accessibility barriers. For example, this year Microsoft released the “Adaptive Controller” for Xbox, which is “designed to meet the needs of gamers with limited mobility.” With that said, the gaming industry still has a long way to go before gaming is fully accessible for disabled individuals.

Here are just a few features you can integrate to make your game more accessible:

  1. Allow players to select additional channels of information through different modalities. This way, they can consistently intake information from the game or its interfaces. Players with impaired vision or hearing need an enhancement for visual or auditory information. To enhance the experience for players with low or no vision, integrate a visual assist mode in which vibrations or sound effects aid people in gameplay. For a player with impaired hearing, visual indicators that represent nearby directional sound can be helpful, or simply adding a caption box can provide the context for the gameplay.
  2. Give players the option to reconfigure the controls of the game so they can effectively use them. People living with physical disabilities may need to remap controls to a keyboard or mouse, or they might want to remap a standard controller to better reach the controls. Players with cognitive disabilities may require simplified controls to remember their configuration.
  3. Players may not have the ability to utilize the user interface effectively and efficiently due to layout, size, content, or structure. To overcome this barrier, allow people to customize the placement or size of heads-up-display (HUD) elements. For example, players may choose larger buttons for easy selection, smaller buttons for less obstruction during gameplay, or varying sizes to create their optimal interface. Also consider providing the option for players to choose exactly which elements of the HUD appear on the screen.

Of course, there are plenty of ways to make your game more accessible to people with disabilities. Remember that before anyone can play your game, they must be able to access it. Once players have access, they need to be able to play the game by interacting with it in a way that is comfortable and enjoyable. Read more on how you can improve the accessibility of your game in this eBook by AbleGamers Charity.

An Accessible Future

Accessibility in gaming is imperative for the industry’s continued growth and success. All players should be able to experience the immersive and amazing experiences gaming provides. So when you are creating games (whether PC, console, or mobile), take into account the factors we have mentioned and consider how you can best address them to foster a more accessible experience for all demographics.

Here at Skillz, we’re incredibly excited about the increasingly diverse gaming industry. We are constantly looking for game developers that embody our mission of creating eSports for everyone when partnering with us to create a Skillz-powered game. If you would like to share your story on the Skillz blog about how you have increased game accessibility, then please email devmarketing@skillz.com.